There is a particular quotation we were found of using in our childhood and it was attributed to no less a personality than Jesus Christ.
It was common to hear people telling others that Jesus said “Don’t weep for me; weep for yourselves”. The aim was to tell people to recognise the problems they were carrying and therefore needed to pity themselves and not others. Later as we grew into responsible adults, we realised that the quotation actually existed: “A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children’” (Luke 23: 27-28).
Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams, presiding Bishop of the Christian Action Faith Ministries (CAFM), Action Chapel, is one of the most sensational religious leaders we have in Ghana today, and most of his pronouncements and declarations can attract media headlines far and wide. One of the latest of such media headline-grabbing pronouncements is his alleged prayer for the Ghanaian currency, the cedi, to recover from its rapid decline of late. While officiating at a church service recently, Archbishop Duncan-Williams reportedly charged his congregation to pray against the rapid decline in value of the cedi. He then went on to issue an intense prayer thus: “…I hold up the Cedi with prayer and I command the Cedi to recover and I declare the Cedi will not fall. It will not fall any further. I command the Cedi to climb. I command the resurrection of the Cedi. I command and release a miracle for the economy.”
While it will not be appropriate for anybody to speak against prayers in this very religious, especially Christian, country, it is important to differentiate between prayers and facing realities as they are. Christians, including fanatical ones, cannot run away from the fact that God created us with brains and has given us the faculty to use them. We can pray for God to guide us in the use of that faculty and not for God to do for us what we are to use the brain to do.
The naked fact is that, the Archbishop’s call for prayers is a typical demonstration of what has become our mentality as a nation. As the former head of Monitoring and Evaluation of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Dr Tony Aidoo, put it, “…It is only lazy people who become excessively religious because they want to transfer their responsibilities to others to solve for them.” Dr Aidoo’s comment, to a large extent, summarises the unfortunate situation that we as a nation find ourselves in. It is a situation that makes students, for example, spend valuable studies time in making lengthy prayers, the so-called all night, at the expense of their studies, hoping that God’s miracle will make them pass examinations. Lurking behind that approach to life is the individual student’s aversion for serious and dedicated studies, since it is easier to rely on God’s miracle.
Surprising though this may sound, many Ghanaians do not see anything wrong with attitudes such as that of the Archbishop because the resort to such easy and short-cut approach to life has become our normal way of life. This is why some voices, and many of them, could be heard cursing those who dare to disagree with Bishop Duncan-William for such a call for prayers. And they are not far from being right. After all, prayers have worked miracles for members of the Action Faith Ministry, especially the presiding Archbishop. Those who knew Nicholas in the late 1970s and early 1980s will narrate to you how far the gentleman has gone. Today, given his standing in that ministry, there is nothing that he will ask from the congregation and he will not get it, especially if it is backed by prayers. As they say, “Ask and it shall be given to you…” (Matthew 7: 7) “…with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19: 26). In this context one can perfectly understand where Archbishop Duncan-Williams and his followers are coming from.
A Nation Where Hard Work Has No Reward
A number of things promote economic growth in a country. One of them is rewarding hard work, because it serves as a motivation for its citizens. The end result is real economic growth and genuine prosperity. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Ghana. Because of our get rich quick attitude and the belief in short cut to success, none of us sees the need to labour hard in order to be crowned. Take politicians for example, they are giving Ghanaians a disturbing signal – it has become the surest way to getting rich overnight. A Ghanaian who becomes a member of parliament (MP), minister of state or similar political positions is bound to become rich. This explains why people are fighting day and night, using fair or foul means to become politicians.
On the other hand, professionals like doctors, teachers and farmers, to name but a few, who toil day and night, are hardly rewarded in a way that will motivate them to die a little for their country. This is a country where the person who has custody over our wealth is considered as the most important worker, not the one who has toiled hard to generate the wealth. Even where schemes are instituted to reward professionals they are hijacked by elitist cliques, making nonsense of the whole idea of reward. A closer look at the way our awards for national best teacher and farmer, for example, reveals how worrying the situation is. The best farmer, for example, is usually the wealthiest farmer who has contacts to obtain loan facilities to go into large scale farming. The problem here is not with rewarding successful farmers but with making the rich richer in a way that amounts to ignoring hard working farmers who could be even more successful if they had also gained access to loan facilities and expert advice.
The most serious aspect of the Ghanaian situation is that the nation’s leaders are the guiltiest in harbouring mentalities that discourage hard work. The former MP for Asokwa, Mr Kofi Jumah, generated huge controversy some time ago when he claimed that medical doctors, teachers and other professionals cannot compare themselves to MPs because MPs are on a higher pedestal compared to those professions. The former MP might not necessarily be speaking for other legislators and, indeed, politicians as a whole but a pronouncement like that is a translation of the type of mentality held even at high places. It is an unfortunate way of appreciating national values that discourage professionals from rendering to the nation services that its citizens are in dire need of.
Fortunately, and not surprisingly, one does not expect everybody, not even members of the clergy, to totally agree with the Archbishop. The Chairman of Peace Council, Reverend Prof Emmanuel Asante, has been quoted to have said on Radio XYZ that there was the need to use proper scientific methods in tackling the economic challenges facing the country. According to him, prayer was not the only panacea to solving the economic difficulties in the country. He added that in as much as life should be seen in a holistic manner, “simply praying will not turn the economy around but it is prayer and action.” Indeed, we as a nation, especially those who preside over the destiny of our economy, need to realistically redefine our priorities. This also calls for a change in our mentality. We cannot spend a huge proportion of our limited wealth to dole out money to ‘smart’ rogues under the guise of paying judgement debt, pay huge salaries and allowances to politicians and their hangers-on (special aides, staffers, serial callers, etc.), while showing reluctance in rewarding professionals and other hard workers for their genuine work. This type of mentality is a recipe for disaster for our economy.
Archbishop Duncan Williams was once quoted as saying that he was so expensive that the perfume he used could not be found on the shelf of any shop in Ghana. That was in November 2011 when he was speaking at the first graduation ceremony of Action Chapel International Bible College in Kumasi. While the Archbishop could say he was quoted out of context, the fact remains that he is one of the religious leaders in this country whose lifestyle has raised a lot of eyebrow. It does not end there. More seriously, it is a typical example of how our scarce but hard-earned money is used to further the foreign taste of people who do not contribute anything tangible towards the growth of our economy. People like the Archbishop should know that misplaced values of this nature contribute in no small way to undermining our currency, the cedi.
Finally, though, it has to be admitted that the importance of prayers in a religious country like Ghana cannot be taken for granted. However, prayers need to be directed where they will serve the desired purpose. It is in this context that men of God with genuine motives should pray for a change of mentality in this country. Also, religious leaders who exploit the vulnerability of their congregation to develop controversial lifestyles for themselves need to pray for a change in mentality.